McCARTHY Terence 353
4 Machine Gun Battalion KIA 19/9/18
There is nothing in his service file to tie Terence Charles Francis McCarthy to the Shire of Alberton. He was born in the Melbourne suburb of Kensington. He went to school in Kensington and served for 2 years in the junior cadets there. When his father – John Henry McCarthy – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he also gave Kensington as the location with which his son was chiefly connected. Moreover, the name of Terence McCarthy does not appear on any memorial in the Shire of Alberton, most notably the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. However, there is no doubt that Terence McCarthy was working as a farm labourer in the Shire of Alberton at the outbreak of WW1 and was amongst the very first group of ‘locals’ to enlist. He received railway warrant number 33 from the Shire Secretary to travel to Melbourne on 21/9/14. The date of his enlistment in Yarram was 16/9/14 and his next-of-kin was given as his father, John H McCarthy of Kensington.
Terence Charles Francis McCarthy was born in 1895. His early family story was revealed in a formal statement made by his step-mother in 1922 when she applied to receive his war medals. The statement described how Terence’s mother – Marie McCarthy – died when he was just two years old (1897). His step-mother – Amy Elizabeth McCarthy – first worked as housekeeper for the husband – John Henry McCarthy – and then married him after 2 years. The father died in September 1920. The same statement also refers to an ‘eldest’ brother, Eugene McCarthy. More information on other siblings came from a copy of his will that named his sister – Augusta Mary McCarthy – as the sole beneficiary. Additionally, the (National) Roll of Honour form gave information on an additional 2 older brothers who had also enlisted. Maurice August Dorman McCarthy (6539) was 24 yo and single when he enlisted in November 1915. He was a labourer and was living at Kensington. He survived the War and returned to Australia in July 1919. David Owen McCarthy (5596) was 22 yo and single when he enlisted in July 1915. His occupation was given as printer and he too lived at Kensington. He died of wounds on 1/10/17.
Terence McCarthy, even though he was the youngest brother, enlisted first. As indicated, he was one of the first group of recruits from the Shire and his name – T C F McCarthy – was published in the initial list which appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 23/9/18. On his enlistment papers his occupation was given as ‘farm labourer’. He was only 19 yo so, most likely, he had been working in the local area for just a few years. His religion was Roman Catholic. His medical was also completed at Yarram and there was a note from Dr Pern, one of the local doctors, that his ‘teeth [needed] to be attended to’.
When he enlisted in Yarram on 16/9/14, Terence McCarthy gave his age as 19 years and 4 months. As he was ‘under age’, he should have provided some form of written consent signed by both parents. Often this appeared on just a slip of paper and there was no consistent wording. Unusually, there is no such document in Private McCarthy’s service file. Presumably, he promised such a consent when he enlisted in Yarram but, once he reached camp at Broadmeadows, neither he nor the AIF ever followed up on it.
Like many others in the first group of volunteers from Yarram, Private McCarthy thought he was joining the Light Horse. In fact , ‘Light Horse S. Gippsland’ was crossed out on his enlistment form and he was attached to the newly formed 14 Battalion. His unit embarked for Egypt from Melbourne at the end of 1914 (22/12/14).
Unfortunately, the details of Private McCarthy’s service in 1915 and through to the end of 1917 are very sketchy. After Gallipoli, 14 Battalion moved to France in June 1916 and was involved in the major battles on the Western Front, including Pozieres (August 1916) and Bullecourt (April 1917). There is more detail in his service file for 1918. In January 1918 he had a period of leave in the UK and was then admitted to hospital with VD. The pattern of leave in the UK followed by VD was not uncommon. In his case, the period of illness was recorded as 56 days, the period of time for which his pay would have been docked. He was discharged from hospital in early April.
Private McCarthy remained in the UK until late August 1918. In early May (2/5/18) he was charged with and convicted of ‘making a false statement to his superior officer’ and received 1 day of Field Punishment No. 2. There are no details regarding the nature of the ‘false statement’. In early June 1918, after having served in 14 Battalion for more than 3 years, he was transferred to the Machine Gun Training Depot at Grantham. After another 3 months of training, he was sent back to France where he formally joined 4 Machine Gun Battalion at Camiers on 27/8/18. He was killed in action less than one month later (19/9/18) and almost 4 years to the day when he first enlisted in Yarram.
The cable advising of the death was dated 4/10/18. The body was never recovered and his name appears on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. The meagre kit – Rising sun, 1 Wallet, Note book, Post card, Photos – reached Australia one year later in September 1919.
Unfortunately, there was no Red Cross report for Private McCarthy. The War Diary of 4 Machine Gun Battalion describes how the unit was at rest in Longueau (Amiens) until approximately 7 September when it moved to the area near Catelet. The attack opened on the morning of 18 September and was very successful. Casualties were light but there is an specific reference in the account of 12 Australian Machine Gun Company – of 4 MG Battalion – to an officer (Lt E P Prendergast) being wounded and 2 other ranks (Privates Thompson and McCarthy) being killed when the group was hit by a shell in a front line trench. They were the only deaths recorded for the unit on that day. The nature of the death probably explains why there was no grave for either of the two men killed.
There is an interesting letter in Private McCarthy’s file that adds a dramatic note to his death. It was written on 13/10/18 by a Miss M Gray of Malvern. She was his cousin.
Can you give me any information about my cousin Private T. C. F. McCarthy No. 353 14th Batt reportedly killed in action on the 19th of September. I received a letter from him on August 10th at Aus. Machine Gun Training Depot, Park House Salisbury saying he would be home for Xmas, as an order had been published throughout the camp that the 1914 men were to be granted leave he also said that they heard that the 1914 men were not to be sent to the France until definite orders, but if he did his address would alter from the 14th Batt to some permanent Machine Gun unit. He was a Driver in the 14th Batt until a few months ago. So would be very thankful if you could let me know if the 1914 men were sent to France from England after the order was published that they were coming home.
The key point to the letter appears to be the very last sentence. There was obviously a significant tension between the promise after nearly 4 years of war of being sent home on leave and the reality of being returned to the front, with the ongoing possibility of being killed. The story behind this promise of leave back to Australia dates from the decision of the Australian Government in August 1918 to have those who embarked in 1914 – the ‘originals’ – return to Australia for leave. There was a matching recruiting drive urging men to enlist to take the place of the Anzacs being given leave. It was not until September that there was shipping to accommodate this promise. There is no reason to believe that Private McCarthy was not eligible, and the war diary of his unit – 4 MG Battalion – makes it very clear that those who had enlisted in 1914 were in fact being pulled out of the line and sent ‘home’ to Australia. For example, there is an entry for 14 September – 4 days before the attack – that states:
Lieut. Martin and 6 O/Ranks, all 7 having enlisted in 1914, today reported at Btn. H.Q., en route for Italy and so to Australia for six months’ leave.
Similarly, there is an entry for 18 September – the very day of the attack – that notes,
Captain Taylor and 20 O/Ranks left for six months to Australia.
Why Private McCarthy was not one of those withdrawn from the line and sent back to Australia at that point is not known. The poignancy of the situation is all the more powerful given that he was killed at the very time other ‘originals’ were going home on extended leave.
Terence McCarthy was a 19 yo farm labourer who was working in the Shire of Alberton when he enlisted at the very start of the War. He survived 4 years before being killed in action. Someone, presumably the Shire Secretary, wrote in red ink ‘killed’ next to his name on the list of those issued with railway warrants. However, there appears to have been no other recognition of his status as a ‘local’ or his fate. Like many others, he disappeared from the Shire’s history.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for McCARTHY Terence C F
Roll of Honour: Terence C F McCarthy
First World War Embarkation Roll: Terence C F McCarthy